Today, if you can believe it, might have been the most tiring day yet. I’m sure things will only get crazier from here. Yesterday our entrepreneur signed the contract for his loan. It was about as much to him as four years of student loans is to a Westmont student like me. But let me rewind a little.
We started our day off at 8 am, just like every day. Getting up early is one of my most difficult challenges and so this morning I had to muster up every ounce of energy I had because I knew today was going to be a big day. After a little bible study in the dining area of Jerry’s Hotel, which is right one the Caribbean, we met up with our entrepreneurs and the translators at the church office around 9. To travel, we all take mopeds across town. Some of my favorite memories have been our rides through town while the locals point and call us “blanc”. We would wave to the little kids running around along the side of the road and when we drove past and waved, we would get huge smiles.
Luckily, Celavy was the first the first entrepreneur to sign his loan and Maddie got a bunch of pictures of him. After signing the loan, Maddie, Natalie, Ulrich our translator, Celavy and I went to the market to purchase the materials he would need. Right before we left, Celavy mentioned that he only was going to buy 2 or 3 items today and do the rest later. We were a little confused why we wouldn’t buy it all today. So we asked if we could go and make a checklist and something clicked for him after we asked about each material, that he could purchase everything today.
It was really cool, while we were in the marketplace, Natalie saw one of the ladies from our hotel and we were able to chat with her for a bit. She spoke a little English but perfect French. I loved being able to chat with her because everyone in California takes Spanish and it’s extremely useful in Mexico but not so much in Haiti. I felt proud to speak French and converse with her for a bit and I also felt proud of Celavy for purchasing all his materials. We went with him to each vendor but stood to the side as to not increase the prices. Some items were more expensive than he had previously stated and some items were less. We also had to purchase other materials that were not specified on his loan like a lock and a piece of wood to fix the floor of his shop. At the end of all our purchases, we added up the total to find out that we used up exactly the amount of the loan, which was crazy because Maddie and I were worried about having enough money.
After taking everything back to his house, we parted ways with Celavy and thanked him for the fun and productive day. The rest of the group met up to walk to a voodoo tree a little bit into the woods. As we walked, the group collected a gathering of little children. Even though we were exhausted, hot and extremely sweaty, the kids didn’t care and held our hands anyway. We walked into the woods and saw one of the biggest trees in the forest. Many of the kids didn’t want to come any closer to the tree than the road but some kids did and I think that because of the kids and our presence with them, I didn’t feel any heaviness from the area.
Back at Jerry’s Hotel, a local kid named Benji asked us to play some basketball. Although I don’t know anything about basketball, I tagged along with Jack, Cody and vacation Rick so that I could get some good pictures. It ended up being a 30-minute walk to these basketball courts. The coolest part was the local boys leading us through different marshes and switchbacks going to and from the courts.
At the end of the day, I felt a lot of emotions as I always do. I felt privileged to be well taken care of by not only Celavy and our translator but by the local boys and people who barely knew me but loved me so well. I was extremely proud of Celavy and his dedication to his business and God. He was very inspirational and said beautiful things about us coming together as brothers and sisters in Christ. Celavy has truly touched my heart in so many ways and I will never forget his persistence, kindness and gentle spirit. By the end of the day I felt so lucky to be given the opportunity to partner with someone and give them a little bit more hope in life.
– Kyla, aka ‘super blanc’
Cell Phones in Haiti?
It has been such a joy getting to know our entrepreneur, Celavy. He said that he has had the idea for the cell phone charging business for a long time, and he is so happy that he now has the opportunity to start his business. He has proved to be ambitious and hard working, but his honesty and willingness to learn has been extremely helpful in partnering with him. Starting a business in a different country and culture comes with a lot of confusion and miscommunication, so it has been a goal of mine to seek to understand the business in context of the way Haiti does things, rather than my own understanding of the way things should work.
It was very confusing to me why so many Haitians have cell phones when they lack so many other basic human needs, so today, I pulled Celavy and the translator aside and began to get to the bottom of this. I was playing devils advocate and seeking to understand Haitian culture and needs. I pried trying to discover why Haitians living without running water or electricity needed cell phones. After all, this is the market for Celavy’s business. Many Haitians have cell phones, but no power, so they have to pay a vendor to charge their phones every day. It seems silly. It seems foolish. It seems obvious to me that people who are only eating one meal a day should not spend their money on cell phones and minutes. At first when I asked Celavy why Haitians in what condition buy cell phones he laughed. His answer was basic and not enough for me, “so we can text and call our friends and family”. This was not the answer that I was looking for, so I asked again and demanded a more honest answer. He began to explain “its like this right now, I am with you, so I am happy and distracted, so I do not remember that I am hungry and have not eaten today…”
This answer was painful to hear, but as I chewed on it for the rest of the day I realized this was not a unique trait of Haitian culture. Neglecting our needs and distracting ourselves with our phones, friendships etc happens just as much in America. My initial judgment of their needs and my own idea of how Haitians should manage their money was not beneficial to my understanding of them while discovering the heart behind the need for Celavy’s business changed the way I could encourage him.